A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Spidey Gets Sick

Silly me! I thought that the messy, sticky residue around my Chlorophytum comosum was somehow characteristic of the foliage. I was reluctant to put the offending plant back in the bathroom I've been redecorating. And then I put two and two together. Maybe it had something to do with those ugly brown dots appearing all over the leaves?

Sure enough, the poor little spider plant has a scale infestation. Scales are tiny parasitic insects of the order Hemiptera, which also includes aphids and mealybugs. The males have wings and die after a day or two. They reproduce but never feed. Females attach themselves to a plant and secrete a waxy coating. There are thousands of species of scale; all I know about these is that they are brown and presumably female.

My choices are three. Throw the plant out and buy a new, healthy one; drench it with insecticide; or spray it with one of a variety of more natural solutions.

I'm not really into killing things, I'm poor, and the plant has sentimental value, having been given to me by a friend. So I'm not going to throw it out. I'm not really into strong, carcinogenic chemicals, I'm poor, and I hate to run errands. So I'm not going to buy any insecticide. That leaves going natural.

The other day I hosed down the plant to loosen and soften the scales. Then I used a very small paintbrush to remove most of them. The plant is looking lovely.

I'm going to follow up the treatment with weekly washings, maybe with a little soap or alcohol added to the water. Meanwhile, the "honeydew," as the sticky scale secretion is called, has virtually been eliminated. And Spidey is allowed back in the bathroom.

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